A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviour in school contexts

A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviours in school contexts


This systematic EPPI review focused on the theoretical underpinnings of learning behaviour in school contexts (3-16 year olds) to inform initial teacher education (ITE) programmes.

The review identified 46 studies that focused on learning behaviour covering the primary and secondary phases, mainly from the US and UK. Five studies were selected for an in-depth review. The authors described their key findings based on medium to high weight of evidence as follows:

  • Theories do have potential for explaining learning behaviours, developing teaching strategies and evaluating effective learning.
  • Researchers have used theories that combine cognitive, affective or social perspectives to describe on-task behaviour, learning in groups and personal views of self.
  • On-task behaviour was related to motivation, linked to self-discipline and to engagement in learning tasks.
  • Some types of social interaction either teacher-pupil or pupil-pupil, and working in heterogeneous groups, have a positive influence on learning behaviour.
  • Person-centred variables such as self-efficacy, self-esteem, self-regard, independence and responsibility were found to affect learning behaviours.
  • Some actions and contexts could promote positive behaviour and decrease negative behaviour such as promoting good behaviour, developing effective behaviour for learning, using assessment procedures that value personal achievement and integrating the social and academic aspects of education.

The authors suggested that ‘behaviour for learning’ be given a greater priority within the ITE curriculum as a foundation for effective behaviour management.


behaviour theories, engagement, learning, relationships, self-esteem

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Topic Area

Teaching and Learning, Theories of Learning

QTS Standards

Q1 Have high expectations of children and young people, Q10 Have a knowledge and understanding of a range of teaching, learning and behaviour management strategies, Q18 Understand how children and young people develop, Q19 Know how to make effective personalised provision for those they teach, Q31 Establish a clear framework for classroom discipline to manage learners’ behaviour constructively and promote their self-control and independence, Q4 Communicate effectively with children, young people, colleagues, parents and carers, S 3.3.1 High expectations of pupils, build successful relationships where diversity is valued, S 3.3.3 Teach structured lessons/sequences of work which interest/motivate pupils, S 3.3.4 Differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of pupils, S 3.3.9 Set high expectations for pupils’ behaviour, S1.2 Treat pupils consistently with respect and consideration, S1.3 Demonstrate positive values, attitudes and behaviour, S1.7 Improve their own teaching by learning from effective practice of others, S2.4 Understand physical, intellectual, linguistic, social, cultural and emotional development, S2.7 Know a range of strategies to promote good behaviour and establish purposeful learning environment, S3.2.1 Make appropriate use of a range of monitoring and assessment strategies, S3.2.2 Monitor/Assess and give constructive feedback, S3.2.4 Identify/support pupils exceeding/working below their potential, S3.2.6 Record pupils' progress and achievements systematically and use for pupil self review and planning

Type of Resource

EPPI Reviews


All Key Stages and Age Ranges

Authors :

Sasha Powell and Janet Tod

Other Contributor :

John Cornwall, Sue Soan

Source :


Publisher :

EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, IOE

Article Id :


Date Posted: